THE SLIP & JFJO | CHICAGO | 03.23.02

The Slip | Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
Double Door | Chicago | 03.23.02

Click for a larger image - Poster by wilson@1000verticalft.com
Poster by Wilson
a few posters are still
for sale at JFJO.com

"Sweet Home, Chicago!" This was all I could say to myself as I flew into O'Hare International Airport on a sunny Saturday afternoon via Seattle, WA. I had just spent the last five days participating in an inspiring conference right in the heart of the Emerald City. I was now getting amped and ready for a quick stop through my hometown to catch the last of a five-night run that brought together two trios that continue to push the musical boundaries of jazz to new and exciting territories. As a matter of fact, it was here in Chicago in which both of these exciting bands first crossed paths. While no musical collaboration was initiated that night, the seeds of kinship had been planted.

As I arrived at the Double Door, I was welcomed by both warm smiles and big hugs from so many familiar faces. Many of them wondering why I was back home unexpectedly. The Slip and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey under one roof: 'nuff said!

Regardless, I got myself a drink and found a space on the dance floor for the adventurous sounds of JFJO. That is exactly what a JFJO show is: an adventure! They mix the best of free-jazz and funk heavy grooves to create a sound that is all their own.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey started the evening with a loose avant-garde style jam that got the crowd warmed up for what would be an amazing set of music. The next song was one that bass player Reed Mathis had created to pay respect to the band they had been sharing the road with for the past five days. The song was called "The Slip." It featured some interesting time changes and some nifty work by Mathis and organ/piano maniac Brian Haas. This was the first of many songs in the JFJO set that gave people in attendance a glimpse of the incredible bass work of Reed Mathis. Next up was the free-jazz sounds of "Skeeball on the Ocean." Where they get their song titles are beyond me, but passion and energy that they display are hard to match.

The next song was one that was written while the band was on the road sharing the stage with the Charlie Hunter Quartet earlier this year. "Hunter Gather" had a hard-driving funk groove and once again showed Mathis impressing us with his ability to take a four-string bass and use it to imitate a funky rhythm guitar. Sharing the stage with Charlie Hunter definitely left an impression with the band, it was evident in Jason Smart's tight polyrhythmic beats. Probably influenced by getting to listen to Stephen Chopek and Chris Lovejoy on a nightly basis. "Son of Jah" was next; this was my favorite JFJO song of the night. The last song of the set was the always favorite "Vernal Equinox." Haas mentioned how this song was inspired from describing the fall season in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The song had some nice playing of the ivory and another uplifting bass solo by Mathis. Overall, a fantastic set by JFJO and what a great way to prepare everyone to the main event of the evening.

The Slip opened up the evening the same way they opened up their wonderful New Year's Eve this past December, with "Dear Milena." A slower song that focused more on guitarist Brad Barr's vocals. Bassist Marc Friedman layed down the funky bass intro to "Get Me With Fuji" and we had people getting ready to get the dance floor moving. (This song was inspired from one of the band's adventures in Japan.) Next up is what I consider one of the most beautiful songs in The Slip repertoire: "Nellie Jean." These guys really opened up the show with this tune. The band was extremely tight on this song and Marc's bass worked really shined throughout. What really made this song was the flawless segue by drummer Andrew Barr into the drum n' bass flavored "Aptos." The first time I heard this song I knew that this was the band I had been searching for. This version of "Aptos" was the highlight of the evening for me; you really get to see how these three listen to each other to help each weave in their own unique voice, creating a sound that is unmatched and as original has anything my ears have ever heard.

I have heard some folks say the reason The Slip can segue so easily from song to song is because they have played with each other for so long. While I completely believe this idea, I also believe that these three must have some form of telepathy that enables them to do what they do so well. The beauty of The Slip is that each of their songs carries its own weight. Their isn't one song that I enjoy more than another, I just enjoy them all. "You Might Say" was next and let the crowd settle down after the amazing "Nellie>Aptos." This song continues to show how The Slip have the flexibility to switch from long instrumentals to simple, yet catchy vocal songs. Next up was "Cumulus", a classic Slip song that was made even more special with Brad picking up his sitar/guitar. I thought this song might surface, especially with the Indian music played during the set break. The band showed us their jazz roots with the excellent rendition of "Johnny's Tune." Guitarist Brad Barr's presence was really felt on this song. I love his hollow-body sound; so very distinct. He has the ability to be very fluid and patient with his sound, but can turn around and surprise you with his ability to run up and down the neck of his guitar like a madman.

To close the set out we were treated to another great vocal tune called "Sometimes True To Nothing." While the band does not have many songs that have vocals, the ones they do have are all strong in content and meaning. They have the ability to paint pictures with their words, something only the Grateful Dead were able to do for me. The encore brought out The Slip and both Reed Mathis and Jason Smart from JFJO for the always popular dance ditty, "Dogs on Bikes." What I enjoy about this song is, no matter how many times I hear it, each version is completely different, and this version of the "Dogs on Bikes" was no different. Brad began the song by teasing it for a bit, finding some time to jam away and then went right into the theme of the song. Reed Mathis from JFJO made his presence felt immediately by mimicking Brad's guitar lines with his four-string bass. This didn't surprise me one bit, especially the way Mr. Mathis had been playing during the JFJO set. He got my vote for MVP of the night. Regardless, Brad was loving it and continued the interplay before letting Reed take a monster solo.

The smiles on stage showed these guys were having some serious fun. Once both Reed and Brad were done, it was turn for the Andrew Barr and Jason Smart show. They started the drum solo very quietly and slowly worked themselves into some polyrhythmic mayhem. Once the dual drum solo was done, all five musicians patiently found themselves back to the theme of the song and Brad closed out the evening by thanking the crowd and the venue for letting them finish this five-night run with their musical friends in the Windy City. You can see the warmth and respect that these two bands have for each other, those seeds of kinship have definitely sprouted and look to create a bond that both bands and their fans will enjoy for years to come.

Overall, it was an amazing evening of music. What would have made the evening perfect was if I had the chance to see the Chicago-based 1000 Vertical Ft., who started the evening off. I have been waiting to see these guys, but always seem a day late or an hour short. The band's guitarist, Wilson, actually created the beautiful limited-edition poster to help celebrate the five-night run. So when are you guys coming out to the East coast, Wilson?

As I stumbled onto my plane the following morning to head back home to Burlington, VT, I had felt like I had just gone through an awakening the previous night. Both of these bands have touched me in some way these past couple of years, for that I thank them and only hope that others may experience this same joy. Take care and be well, and remember: only 23 days 'til Boston!

The Slip Tour Dates | JFJO Tour Dates

Cecil Thomas
JamBase | Vermont
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[Published on: 3/29/02]

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